A New Hurdle for EPA Grants, and Some Good News for Sanctuary Cities
The day we published our previous installment about replacing government environmental funding, “If the EPA Goes MIA,” the Washington Postreported that the EPA had put a political operative in charge of reviewing all grants made through the agency. (Several small outlets had mentioned portions of the story earlier, but the Post was the first large source to cover it in-depth.)
John Konkus, a former campaign chairman for President Trump in Leon County, FL, had previously served as a political consultant, and as an executive assistant for former House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood L. Boehler. However, Konkus does not have a background in dealing with science or environmental issues, and his official position is with the EPA’s public affairs office. Now he is also in charge of reviewing nearly every award going through the agency.
Konkus has reportedly told staff that he is looking for any mention of climate change (which Konkus has referred to as the “double C-word”) in grant applications, and also wants any references removed from the agency’s grant solicitations.
Christine Todd Whitman, who was the Administrator of the EPA under President George W. Bush, said she couldn’t recall having input from political appointees on specific awards while she was with the agency. “We didn’t do a political screening on every grant, because many of them were based on science, and political appointees don’t have that kind of background,” she said.
EPA spokesman Liz Bowman has stated that so far, “only a select few have been rescinded.” The Post puts the number at approximately $2 million in canceled grants thus far.
It is disappointing that the agency in charge of protecting our environment doesn’t want to factor in climate change as a criterion in its grantmaking, but given this current reality, how should grantseekers adjust their strategy?
You’ll need to pay extra close attention to the wording of grant solicitations. If the EPA doesn’t want to hear about climate change, and you really want the grant, you probably shouldn’t talk about climate change. GrantStation Members have access to a guide on tone and style, which offers some guidelines on focusing on the funder, and using the language they want to hear.
And while it may be difficult, if you can focus on real-world outcomes without using the “double C-word,” you might find some success. You might feel a little dirty while you do it, but that might be the price of getting your program funded.
The Justice Department was attempting to restrict funding to these cities through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, which provides state and local jurisdictions with funding for courts, law enforcement, and similar services.
The Justice Department wanted to impose two new requirements for the grant: cities receiving funding must allow federal immigration authorities access to local detention facilities, and they must provide the Department of Homeland Security at least 48 hours of notice before local officials release an undocumented immigrant wanted by federal authorities.
The judge’s ruling states that since the funds for the grants were appropriated by Congress, and the authority claimed by the Justice Department was not given by Congress, the Justice Department cannot impose new restrictions on the grants. So the ruling wasn’t necessarily against the proposed requirements, but the fact that they were going to be retroactively imposed.
Grantees will need to certify compliance with a federal law that mandates that local jurisdictions communicate immigration status information to the federal government. However, this requirement for the grants was in place during the Obama administration, and was not imposed after the fact by President Trump’s Justice Department.
The Justice Department is currently appealing the judge’s ruling.
(Note: We were initially going to look at education funding this month, but wanted to address these current news stories while they were still recent. We will be examining education in our next installment.)
Action steps you can take today
Try to use the funder’s language in you grant applications. Don’t use words they don’t want to hear!
Contact your senators and representatives and make your voice heard!
Stay informed! You can’t adjust your grant strategy if you’re not aware of what’s happening.
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